Happening Now

Hotline #691

October 18, 1991

The House Public Works Committee approved a revised surface transportation bill (now designated H.R.3566) on October 15, 52-3. The revised bill follows upon the September 18 decision by House leadership to drop the proposed five-cent hike in the federal gas tax on which the original bill's funding was premised. The revised bill authorizes $151 billion over six years, with $119 billion for highways and $32 billion for transit.

The bill was supposed to come to the House floor yesterday, but was postponed until October 23 or 24 due to extended House floor debate of the crime bill. Concerns have been expressed by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-.Cal.) to the leadership of Public Works Committee about the extent to which the House transportation bill supports the goals laid out in the Clean Air Act amendments passed by Congress last year. While the House bill provides flexibility to states with non-attainment areas to transfer some of their National Highway System funds to urban an rural mobility programs, only a handful of states -- those where 90% or more of their population lives in non-attainment areas -- are given full flexibility to transfer National Highway System monies to transit or other clean mobility programs. While it is unclear whether an amendment will be offered on the floor, a call to your Representative letting him or her know you believe governors of more states should be given greater flexibility to shift NHS funds to urban and rural mobility programs to maximize clean air goals passed by Congress last year would be useful.

The full Senate approved the 1992 transportation appropriations bill on October 16, 95-3, completing Congressional action on the bill. The bill now goes to the President, who is expected to sign it.

The clock is ticking for Amtrak's Adirondack. Amtrak has said it would drop the New York-Montreal train on November 1 unless it could come to an agreement with the State of New York on 403(b) payments. The Empire State Passengers Association has written to Sen. Al D'Amato (R.-N.Y.) to ask his help in mediating a solution to the dispute. D'Amato was instrumental last year in getting funding for the second track for the Empire Connection on Manhattan's West Side. That track was placed into service on September 30. It should improve the reliability of Empire Corridor trains.

American-European Express has suspended all operations effective immediately. AEE is reportedly filing for bankruptcy. It is thought that AEE, which had never made money, was greatly hurt when its operations were suspended this summer after a serious grade-crossing accident in Indiana.

CSX has completed its purchase of the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad. CSX used to own 33% of the railroad, but has bought all the shares owned by the State of Virginia Retirement System. The retirement system will retain the property assets of the RF&P, including the potentially lucrative Potomac Yards in Alexandria. CSX will retain complete ownership of RF&P's rail line between Alexandria and Richmond. This line is used by several Amtrak trains a day.

Amtrak announced that an investigation it has carried on for three years has resulted in charges brought against a food vendor. The president of Food Pak, Inc., of Harvey, Ill., has been charged with three counts of mail fraud for allegedly paying kickbacks totaling $400,000 to an Amtrak manager who died in 1987.

Amtrak will begin stocking its long-distance trains with revised route guides this month.

Tri-Rail will increase its weekday commuter train service between Miami and West Palm Beach from 12 trains a day to 14 in each direction, effective October 28.

Fort Devens, near Ayer, Mass., is one of the military bases to be closed soon. Guilford Transportation Industries said it would like to make part of the base into a rail freight distribution center, but others have their eyes on the property, too. The State of Massachusetts would like to use Fort Devens as a second Boston airport. Of course, once electrified Amtrak trains run to Boston in 1995, there may not be a need for a second airport anymore.

Amtrak will observe the completion of renovation work at Chicago Union Station with an equipment display and open house October 24-27. On October 24 at 11:00 am, there will be a public ceremony to kick off the weekend's events.

There will be a ceremony in honor of the increase in state-supported Amtrak trains between Chicago and Milwaukee. It will be October 28, 5:15 pm, at the Milwaukee Amtrak station.

VIA Rail will still issue a new timetable on October 27, but the changes will be minor. VIA's plans to add a couple corridor trains have been cancelled by the Canadian government. Apparently, the bus lobby in Canada objected and made themselves heard to the government.

Montreal's Metro opened 25 years ago, on October 14, 1966.